Economy Briefs: Poor holiday sales drive market lower

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OMAHA, Neb. — Warren Buffett’s company has sold two short-line railroads it recently discovered it owned to satisfy regulators who might have reviewed Berkshire Hathaway’s 2010 acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

Berkshire told the Transportation Department’s Surface Transportation Board earlier this month that it had completed the sale of both short-line railroads ahead of schedule.

If Berkshire had reported owning those railroads when it bought BNSF, the Surface Transportation Board would have had to scrutinize the deal. Berkshire first disclosed owning the railroads to the board in September.

OUTLOOK

Small businesses face big challenges in 2013

NEW YORK — In 2013, small business owners will contend with many of the same issues that made it hard to run their companies over the past 12 months.

They’re also heading into the new year with a lot of uncertainty. It’s unlikely that negotiations in Congress will resolve all of lawmakers’ disagreements over tax and budget issues that affect small businesses.

And there are still many questions about the implications of the health care law for small companies.

That points to continued caution — and perhaps slow hiring — among the nation’s small companies.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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